Jerry Garcia

Essay by Murphy DurhamA, March 1996

download word file, 6 pages 4.5

Jerome John Garcia was born in 1942, in San Francisco's

Mission District. His father, a spanish immigrant named Jose


Garcia, had been a jazz clarinetist and Dixieland bandleader in the

thirties, and he named his new son after his favorite Broadway

composer, Jerome Kern. In the spring of 1948, while on a fishing

trip, Garcia saw his father swept to his death by a California river.

After his father's death, Garcia spent a few years living with

his mother's parents, in one of San Francisco's working-class

districts. His grandmother had the habit of listening to Nashville's

Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts on Saturday nights, and it was in

those hours, Garcia would later say, that he developed his


for country-music forms-particularly the deft , blues-inflected

mandolin playing and mournful, high-lonesome vocal style of Bill

Monroe, the principal founder of bluegrass. When Garcia was ten,

his mother, Ruth, brought him to live with her at a sailor's hotel and

bar that she ran near the city's waterfront.

He spent much of his


there listening to the drunks', fanciful stories; or sitting alone


Disney and horror comics and pouring through science-fiction


When Garcia was fifteen, his older brother Tiff - who years

earlier had accidentally chopped off Jerry's right-hand middle


while the two were chopping wood - introduced him to early rock


roll and rhythm & blues music. Garcia was quickly drawn to the

music's funky rhythms and wild textures, but what attracted him


most were the sounds that came from the guitar; especially the

bluesy 'melifluousness' of players such as; T-bone Walker and

Chuck Berry. It was something he said that he had never heard

before. Garcia wanted to learn how to make those same sounds

he went straight to his mother and...